This may well be what the world looked like to a stoned Californian private eye when the Seventies got under way but it makes for a self-indulgent mess of a film that slips into an irreverent psychedelic haze and never recovers.
It’s Paul Thomas Anderson proving that even the most revered of filmmakers can have an off day; here looking back to Robert Altman’s early Seventies masterpiece, ‘The Long Goodbye’, but lacking his predecessor’s masterful balance between hard edged cynicism and genuine bewilderment as the conservative forces regained control.
He also goes along way to proving the impossibility of adapting a Thomas Pynchon novel; a warning to others who forget that filmic clichés usually exist for a reason.
The notional plot has hippy refugee from the Sixties, Larry ‘Doc’ Sportello, investigating a series of related disappearances, with hard line cop, ‘Bigfoot’, on his case for no particular reason; setting up occasional comic set pieces that are, for the most part, the film’s most engaging scenes.
No doubt, those remaining loyal to Anderson regardless, will point towards another thoughtful performance from Joaquin Phoenix and the rich 35mm cinematography of Robert Elswit but they come across as wasted efforts rather than saving the film.
A second viewing may bring some clarity, but after two and half uninspired hours of trying to stay awake as the ‘Doc’ sleepwalks his way through the Californian milieu, it’s not exactly an inviting proposition.
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